Tales of Vesperia was not only a landmark title for the Tales of series, but for the JRPG genre as a whole. The entire scene was growing a little stagnant with derivative titles popping up everywhere that featured a whole host of common JRPG tropes, unambitious storytelling and relatively pedestrian combat systems. It felt like the genre was growing complacent and sticking to a rigid formula and in danger of becoming stuck on a one-way path to mediocrity.
Along comes Tales of Vesperia to give the whole genre a gentle nudge in the right direction by introducing more thought out concepts and narrative capabilities. It resonated with fans 10 years ago and because of the rather timeless design of the game, it resonates to this day with its definitive edition consolodating all of the content we missed from the Japanese PS3 release and adding some extra bonuses in there for both new and old players.
I played Tales of Vesperia back when it released on Xbox 360 and even though the game lost me at the start and didn’t hold my attention at the time, I decided to push through only to discover a rich and bountiful JRPG experience that has remained one of my favourites throughout the years. I fell in love with all the characters, the twisting story and the interesting mechanics. That love was rekindled rather diligently with this version and I’d love to explain why.
Tale of the tale
The story follows a charismatic rapscallion named Yuri Lowell who is a disgraced Imperial Knight in a world that is ruled by magical energy sources called
The story flows so effortlessly between the game’s acts and it keeps you hooked.
As you can see, the narrative is relatively simple when it first starts out. In addition, most of the characters you meet do fall quite heavily into some kind of trope.
The game gives every character a part of the spotlight. No one character is featured prominently and the attention is usually focused on your party and the dynamics between the characters in it. This creates this form of camaraderie and real investment into each of these unlikely allies. The game also does this clever thing where it uses skits between the action where the characters talk to each other with just their portraits being animated. It helps fill in the gaps to the story as well as fleshing out these characters and really giving their personalities room to breathe.
All of these narrative elements combine to create this perfect formula of engagement and investment. The story flows so effortlessly between the game’s acts and it keeps you hooked to see what will happen next as this humble story takes some serious and drastic turns that you truly do not expect. The game has often been lauded for its narrative and it’s obvious why that is when you play it for yourself.
There is one problem though and that’s the game’s start. It starts off extremely slowly and very gently eases you into all the mechanics and stuff to the point where the tutorial takes about 10 hours to finish. The game lost me here the first time I went through it and it could still do that if I didn’t know that there was greatness over the hill. The introductions and tutorials could have been done much faster or made more engaging, but it’s only a small hurdle to an otherwise colossal experience.
Tales of battle
The combat system in Tales of Vesperia is a little complicated at first glance. It’s not a traditional turn-based JRPG, but rather has a real-time battle system. Battles take place on a circular arena that does allow you full freedom of movement, but your best attacks can only be done on a horizontal plane and facing the enemy. This creates this almost 2.5D brawler effect which is certainly a far cry from your typical JRPGs.
You get your basic attacks, but you also get Artes that are basically the game’s version of spells and techniques. Each character has a specific focus such as Yuri being completely melee based while Estelle can heal. You can also control any character in your party and use their unique abilities for yourself, you’re not only confined to Yuri. Your three AI teammates will run around the area and execute strategies that you can customise that determines all of their behaviours.
You can get really specific with it too, making the AI do exactly what you say. This is imperative on the tougher battles because often just rushing in and swinging away will result in a swift death. The combat isn’t perfect, sadly. The attacks feel clunky to do, your movement feels stifled and the controls can get a little silly. However, once you get into it and really get used to combos and available strategies, it can get pretty enjoyable.
Tales of beauty
I mentioned that Tales of Vesperia is a timeless game and the visuals play a big part in that. The definitive edition obviously provided a bump in resolution and framerate, but the artistic direction still holds even a decade later. The environments are gorgeous, the characters are animated and have distinct visual personality and the animated cutscenes are professional quality and always a joy to watch. It’s a game that won’t show age because of its cell-shaded visual style and simplistic UI and even all these years later after playing much better-looking games, the game still manages to take my breath away at times.
The voice acting remains stellar with the wonderful Troy Baker as Yuri along with an extremely capable supporting cast. Mix that in with a fantastic soundtrack and you have a winner. However, and this is a big
The game still manages to take my breath away at times.
The other features of the definitive edition are a lot more beneficial. Along with some very welcome extra goodies as well as some costumes and whatnot, we also get brand new characters that got thrown into the mix. They were originally only available on the Japanese version of the PS3 version of the game and now they’re here, fully voiced in English and are so seamlessly integrated that I had to question whether or not I remember this person being in my party all those years ago.
Tale of triumph
Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition is extremely simple to write a conclusion on. JRPG fans that haven’t played this game owe it to themselves to check it out. People who aren’t JRPG fans can still find a lot of value in the game because of how unique it is. People who have played it in the past can choose to enjoy it again and I believe that the extras that the definitive edition offers provide a good excuse to go through this adventure again. The game resonated for a decade and now, it resonates even longer.